Startup Takes Aim at SAP and Oracle

Greg Gianforte, the CEO of RightNow Technologies, thinks he can take on the CRM software big guys and win

Greg Gianforte, the outspoken CEO of RightNow Technologies, believes the market for CRM software in Europe is booming - and he predicts some of his company's biggest wins will come at the expense of industry heavyweights SAP and the Oracle-owned Siebel.

Gianforte claims CIOs have tired of what he calls costly and time-consuming on-premise implementations, and says his company is picking up enterprise customers from both of his big-name rivals.

Gianforte told "We beat SAP at Nikon for all their campaign management. We threw Siebel out of Electronic Arts and those are just some of the ones who are prepared for us to talk about it."

He said many companies are unwilling to admit when they've been forced to ditch costly software rollouts. "You have to understand this is fairly embarrassing for these companies because they made big investments and couldn't get value," he said.

Gianforte singled out the market leader SAP in particular for criticism, on the back of recent poor results. "You could drive a truck through the cracks in SAP's armour," he said, claiming he would far rather have his current problem - the recent announcement of £25m losses related to a change in its licensing model - than those of SAP or Siebel who have to turn around far larger businesses.

Of the two larger rivals, Gianforte said his biggest day-to-day competitor is Siebel's enterprise level on-premise offering.

Last year RightNow saw 70 per cent growth in its core large enterprise customers and Gianforte said the enterprise is his number one target although the mid-market - a more familiar hunting ground for on-demand vendors - remains important.

And although SAP and Siebel are now both moving down the on-demand route in progressive steps, Gianforte claims the difference is not simply one of on-premise versus on-demand.

He said: "There is no such thing as a software as a service market. Nobody wakes up and says 'I want to buy some software as a service'. They say 'I wish my call centre worked better' or 'I wish my customer churn was lower'."

But speed of implementation is key, he said, and those companies used to rolling out large on-premise solutions over several months have major cultural and business changes to implement before they can compete with the speed of pure-play on-demand offerings.

Analyst houses however are more tempered in their predictions than Gianforte. Although last October Gartner spelled out a rosy future for on-demand vendors, the consensus remains that on-premise offerings will remain a necessity.

Oracle and SAP failed to respond to a request for comment.

This week RightNow Technologies appointed its first head of EMEA, Joe Brown, signalling a greater focus on Europe.

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